Mental health has been a spotlight issue at Penn State for a while as student needs increase and the university works on a response.
On Thursday, Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims told the board of trustees committee on academic affairs and student life about a major change on the horizon.
The man who has been the face of the university’s counseling for 30 years is retiring.
Dennis Heitzmann is the director of Counseling and Psychological Services, but as he approaches the end of his tenure, he’s taking a step back and letting someone else take the reins.
Sims said Heitzmann will be working on a key component of making CAPS more effective, an analysis of the gap between the services being offered and the needs of students.
As of Aug. 1, Ben Locke will step into the lead role of making CAPS work on a day-to-day basis.
Locke is Heitzmann’s assistant director.
Trustee Luke Metaxas questioned how the move would affect the wait time for cases at CAPS.
According to Sims, the wait has been cut by a third during the past year, and he believes Locke will continue to see that number decrease.
Some of the problem is money and personnel, but that isn’t the whole story, Sims said.
“We can only do so much with additional resources,” he said. “We need to dig deeper into the reason for the significant need for services.”
The Class of 2016 recognized the need by making the class gift a pool of money for CAPS. That was followed up by gifts from the Penn State Alumni Association and retiring senior vice president for development and alumni relations Rodney Kirsch and his wife, Michelle, Schreyer Honors College associate dean of student affairs.